"Veda!" I exclaimed and ran to her, wrapping her in a hug and I could feel her arms around me. "Oh my gods, how?" I was crying for joy now, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. For a second, I thought maybe it hadn't happened but when I pulled back, the blood on her shirt and neck let me know otherwise. It had happened. My best friend, Veda, had died, yet she stood before me alive and well.
"I don't know," she said, looking into my eyes.
"I do," Adam chimed. He walked into the house and disappeared.
I turned, with Veda, and looked out over the ravine. Not even half an hour ago, this had been a battlefield. The trees in the distance still glowed from the embers in the branches. It had been a scene of carnage. But now looking, you wouldn't have known. I thought of everything that had happened over the past hour, Veda had died, yet she stood next to me. I took a deep breath in and realized how, she was a Kethra!
The last year had been a year of change. My whole world had been turned upside down. I was immortal, now. A champion of the Gods. I had come so far yet, still, something was off. Now, my best friend was a Kethra. I wasn't the only one, she was one, too. How long had she been a Kethra? Who turned her? Could she be…? I paused as Casimir interrupted my thoughts.
"Now that it is safe, you can turn Adam and fulfill the prophecy," Casimir announced not knowing what all had transpired up here during the fight.
My thoughts began to race again, according to prophecy, Adam and I should be in love, however, we are not. We love each other, sure, there is a connection, but in love, no. I thought back and a thought occurred to me.
"He's not The immune," I stated.
"What?" Casimir spouted as Adam reappeared at the backdoor. "Yes, he is! He's always been, even before he was born, you knew he was The immune!"
"He's not, Casimir! I may have thought he was back when I was Dru, but he is not The immune. Something's wrong. It's just not right," I admitted. I didn't look at anyone just over my shoulder.
"How could he not be?!" Casimir was nearly screaming and the tension finally snapped me into a frenzy.
"You want to know how I know that he isn't The immune? Because," I now was staring Casimir straight in the eyes. "Because, when I look at him, when I look into his eyes, the world is supposed to fall away. Our hearts are supposed to have found its other half. Do you know what I feel when I look into Adam's eyes?" I was now nearly screaming myself.
I let out my breath and said calmly to Casimir, "Nothing! Nothing like it is supposed to be. It's been that way since we met, even after remembering. After becoming immortal again. Even after spending over a year waiting for it to happen. There is a connection between us but not an epic love. And I know I am not the only one who notices. Adam knows, don't you?" I turned to Adam and he nodded his head.
"If it's not Adam, then who?" Casimir asked.
I thought about it but drew a blank. I had lots of theories but I wasn't sure if any of them were possible. I looked at Casimir and shrugged, "I don't know."
"But the prophecy?"
"I know, but…" I was at a loss. I didn't understand it. There were so many options and so much I didn't understand anymore. Things I had been so sure of when I was Dru. "Maybe…" I started as I glanced over at Veda; it was the only thing that did make sense. "Maybe, I'm not the last Kethra."
"What? You were the last, are the last Kethra!" Casimir exclaimed.
"No," Adam chimed in and I looked at him. "No, she's not. There is another and SHE was the last. She was the only for thirty years. She just didn't know it."
"Wha?" Casimir, who was now just completely taken aback mumbled.
Adam pulled out my diary and opened it to the back. "I found this passage earlier today." He began reading out loud and everyone listened intently. When he finished I looked around and everyone was looking at each other. My eyes skimmed everyone and stopped on Veda. Our eyes met and almost as if the same realization snapped in both of our minds.
"Wait! 1983? That was the year my mom died in a car accident. I was with her and the doctors never could figure out how I survived. They called it a miracle. But it wasn't, was it?" Veda looked at me and I knew it. "Abby, in 1983, I was two and a half and in a wreck with my mom. They said that there was no way that I should have survived. My car seat was thrown from the car, presumably with me in it. I should have died from injuries that I should have sustained from that. Not to mention, I wasn't in my car seat anymore, just on the ground, on a blanket. I was that little girl, wasn't I?" Veda was directly in front of me, tears in her eyes. "Green eyes, red hair, and an Irish accent. I remember she sang to me softly, a melody I have never forgotten." She began to hum the song that I had indeed sung to her. The song that Ira's mother had sang to me as a scared child. An old forgotten Irish tune.
I opened my mouth to answer her but I couldn't find the right words. My best friend was the last Kethra. She had always been, she just didn't know because of me. "Yes," I managed. "You are that little girl, that night. I made a memory spell to take away that night in my mind. To keep you safe. If I couldn't remember, then no one could find out."
She looked at me and she began to smile at me. "No wonder why we were best friends."
I smiled back, "Yes, I think it might have been."
"Wait! So my wife is immortal and now she's supposed to be with Adam?" Mitchell spoke up.
"Oh, no. Adam isn't The immune," I smiled at him. "You are."
"What? I can't be," Mitchell began to protest.
"He isn't a Garret, Abby," Casimir stated.
"Abby?" Veda asked.
"A hundred twenty years or so ago, there were two Garret brothers. Usually, the Garret's would stop at one boy to make it easier to keep them safe. But a hundred twenty years ago they had twins. Christopher and Randall," I explained.
"But Randall died," Casimir cut in.
"Randall wanted you to think he had died," I informed Casimir and continued to the group in full. "Randall thought it would be easier if he went somewhere that he was completely unknown. So he faked his death in that fire and moved across the country. A few years later, he met a woman and they later married. They had a son, who had a son, and so forth. Passing on the immune trait." I looked at Mitchell and finished, "when he wed, he took his wife's surname to stay anonymous and her name was Melinda Ruth Johnson."
"Johnson?" Veda asked smiling, "So Mitchell is an immune?"
I nodded in confirmation. "He's The immune. He is the immune in love with the last Kethra, after all."
She looked over at him and him at her with love in their eyes. "So wait, in some long distant way we are actually related?" Veda exclaimed as she spun around to question me.
"Well, Mitchell's great, great, great, great, great grandparents were also Adam's. So I guess like seventh cousins or something. Josh was Adam's first cousin so by marriage, Mitchell and Josh would have been like seventh cousins by marriage. And then you and I married said cousins, so…" I explained trying to work it out in my head. "Yeah, I guess in some down the line, way down the line way we are. Sort of," I laughed.
"Awesome!" Veda exclaimed. She ran to Mitchell and threw her arms around his neck.
"Why? Why her?" Casimir was now muttering. Lothair stood to the side with Silas and Aaron trying to work it out in his head. Adam looked relieved and Leon looked lost, with what looked like a bit of hope.
"I don't understand. Why give you the prophecy if you are not the last Kethra? Why does it mention the Champion when the Champion isn't the last Kethra? What's Adam's part in all of this? There has to be a significant part for him or we wouldn't have kept him safe all of this time for nothing or did we?" Casimir rambled off, more to himself than to anyone else.
I stepped closer to him and stilled him with a touch. He looked into my eyes and I felt the deep connection we had. The love and endearment that I had always felt for him. "I wish I had the answers, Cas, but I don't."
"There has to be something we're missing," Casimir exclaimed.
"I know, there must be," I agreed, "but I don't know what it is."
With that, the entire group on top of the cliff became solemn and quiet. Everyone trying to figure out the missing piece, including Leon. He still looked lost, looking at everyone as I was.
Then our eyes met and suddenly, I saw him, Lucassius, standing there. His long blond hair blowing in the gentle breeze. His light blue eyes piercing in the night light of the full moon. I blinked and he was Leon again. Shorter hair, brown eyes, still beautiful, just darker. I blinked once more and he was Lucassius again gazing at me.
Then as if I had been in the ocean it hit me like a tidal wave. The impact nearly knocking me off of my feet. Years, decades, centuries, millenniums flashed before me in a matter of a second. Then there was Laylan standing on her cliff. The wind blowing her hair. That satisfied look of contentment upon her face. She suddenly looked at me as if I were floating in front of her. She reached out her hand and I to her. Our finger tips touched and I was abruptly pulled into her. For the first time ever, I was looking through Laylan's eyes.
As quickly as it started, it was over. I opened my eyes, not realizing that I had even shut them. I looked around, and the world looked so different. The halos that I had always seen since becoming a Kethra were now brighter, sharper. Everything seemed to radiate magick.
"Abby, are you okay?" Adam cut into my thoughts. I looked at Adam and saw him over his shoulder. The pain and anguish of six hundred years of hatred washed over me.
"How long have you remembered?" I barely got out without my voice breaking. I was looking straight at him; he knew exactly who I was asking. His eyes faltered and he shuffled his feet.
"Remembered wha…what?" Leon said with a stutter.
"Don't," I brought up a finger as if to silence him from a distance. Everyone was looking at Leon and me. "Don't play dumb with me, Luke; you know what I speak of."
"Uh," he fidgeted as he stumbled over words.
"Lucassius! Speechless?! Wow, in twenty-four hundred years, I think that's a first! No, second, right?" I spout off with a hint of a smile. I never could stay angry with him.
Obviously, it helped him though as he let out a puff of air and finally answered me. "Four and a half centuries. I found my sister, Aoen, here in the Mortal world. I didn't realize of course that she was my sister until I sank my teeth into her neck." He stopped clearly suffering from the memory. "It broke my heart as I held her, remembering who I was supposed to be. And anguishing about the monster I had become."
"That's what broke you. When Casimir and I found you four hundred years ago, you weren't the Leon I remembered, but a shell, a husk of a man," I said with tears in my eyes.
"Yes," Leon answered. "That indeed was what broke me first. Then as I set Aoen up on a funeral pyre, I realized who you might be. I thought of the pain that I had caused you. I…" he paused as he blinked and tears streamed down his face. "I came here to protect you! But instead, I've caused you the most pain! Oh, Laylan, please forgive me." At that he hit his knees and cradled his face in his hands as he sobbed like a true human.
"No," I said as my voice broke and I ran to him. I knelt down in front of him and tried to get him to look at me, but to no avail. "No," I said softly, "You needn't apologize." He still cried into his hands, I realized then what I needed to do, what I always did. "You know, a wise elf once told me, as we sat in a tree, my favorite tree, because I was hiding from his father. He said and I quote 'Our paths are written for us long before we are born. The choices that we choose to make are the choices that we are meant to choose in order to keep us on that path. We will walk down the path choosing the choices chosen for us by the Gods.'" I finished in a quizzical deep mimicry voice. "Or something like that," I laughed. He lowered his hands but still didn't look at me. "They did this," I said quietly.
"What? What is… going on? Abby?" Silas was the one who spoke.
I stood abruptly and spun around. "They did this, Luke. They made you fall in love with me so that you would come here with me to the Mortal World. You came to protect me, not realizing that they were going to use you to cause me the Greatest heartache!" I turned and looked at him. "They used our love for each other against us. First, turning you against me, to hurt me. Then using that, turning me against you. Making me hate you, my best friend, for Six Centuries!" I finished with rage in my voice. I was angry and hurt; tears began to fill my eyes as I continued. "I hated you so much! I wanted to kill you. I wanted you dead. Hell, I made a pact with Lothair to help me find you so that I could kill you myself. That's why I strived, for so long, to be that indestructible Master of War, because I wanted to be ready for when the time came… I could do it. I could kill you!" I was so angry, I broke down. Leon still looked down at the ground. He had looked at me briefly when I said I had wanted to kill him but now he was crying again. "I hated you because they made it so!"
"No, there…there has to be… there has to be a logical… logical explanation." Leon tried to rationalize amidst his sobs. "They wouldn't…there has to be…a reason."
Anger washed over me again and I stood, starting to pace. "Don't!" I shouted. "Damn it, Luke! Stop being such a logical elf and be human, feel as a human would! Get angry at what they did to us! What we became because of them! Does it not piss you off how they blessed us with a child just to have you kill him?! In front of me! Then leave me to..."
"Stop," he quietly demanded.
"I said stop, Laylan. Just... stop!" Luke stood and I could see the anger. He WAS angry. His face was flush and his breathing was heavy. "Blaming the Gods is not the way. As much as we would love to put everything on them, they wouldn't needlessly cause us pain for nothing! They wouldn't!" At that, he turned out over the cliff and went silent.
My anger had been overrun by my pain and was a swirling whirlpool that bubbled up. "Luke, I had to kill him. I had to kill our son again after you left. He was turning and I had to stop him before he turned into..."
"A vampire," Adam stated so I didn't have to.
It was all I needed though. I stopped crying and walked over to the cliff next to Leon. Looking out, I could feel all of the anger, pain, anguish and rage swirling inside like a hurricane of emotions within me. I knew I needed to ground it and release it. I reached over and took Leon's hand, closed my eyes and focused on sending all of the dark energy that churned with the anger, rage and pain down to the ground and pulled in the positive, white energy into my hands.
Then I heard it again. The jingle in the wind chimes near my back door. My eyes shot open as a shooting star fell and landed in the field below the cliff. First one, then another and another. All opening the ground a little more and a little more. Each star revealing a piece of a picture, pieces I knew already, but then they kept falling and beginning to open pieces we were questioning, parts that didn't seem to even matter to us.
Then all at once, the picture, the big picture, snapped into place in front of me and in my mind. I understood. I knew the answers. I always had, just didn't realize it.
"You're right," I said softly. "Damn it, I hate it when you're right."
"What?" Leon asked, finally looking at me.
"You were right, there IS a logical explanation," I stated.
"Okay, I'm listening," Leon said as he looked at me.
"There are a few different reasons," I started and looked to the group. "First, the obvious, to fuel my fire, my desire to be an indestructible Master of War so that later I could become the Champion for not just the pagan gods, or the human god, Perithian, but for all Gods!" I explained as I motioned around us and spun around. "Secondly, I am Laylan, daughter of the Sun God and Moon Goddess. I was born with half of a heart, a part of my mother's." I motioned to the moon. "The other half was to grow into a human heart as I understood humans, ultimately becoming human myself. One big lesson that even born humans," I motioned to everyone around me, "must learn is forgiveness." I stopped at Leon. He was staring blankly in front of him as I spoke. I reached up and raised his face to look at me. "Who better to forgive for such a treachery than my best friend? The one person in the entire universe that I never could stay mad at for more than five minutes."
He looked off into the distance, then at me, "there was that one time you stayed mad for like ten minutes." He pointed out with the first glimmer of a smile I had seen since remembering him.
I giggled and corrected, "Okay, ten minutes." I looked in his eyes and I could see the gold shimmering in his eyes.
"Okay, not to interrupt," Casimir spoke up. "What's the third explanation or reason?"
At that, I peered into Leon's eyes and started, "to make us stronger, together and apart." I stopped as I heard Casimir gasp and turned to see a badly beaten Cain with a blade in Casimir's stomach.
Lothair and I both pounced on Cain but I let Lothair finish him. "Heal, Cas! Why aren't you healing?" Leon yelled in a panic.
I looked over to realize that Leon was right. I ran to Casimir's side as Silas ran to the other side. I grabbed the dagger that Casimir had already pulled out and realized that it looked familiar. It was a steel blade with a wooden hilt carved with celtic symbols. This wasn't just any dagger, this was Grezelda's.
Silas lifted Casimir's shirt and we could see the severity of the wound. It was deep and was gushing blood. I looked at Casimir's face and he was turning paler than usual.
Suddenly, I remembered Lena, Rurik had cut her wrists with this very athame and they wouldn't heal. Now Casimir was laying in front of me not healing a wound from the same weapon. I realized then that this was a Mortal wound that can not heal immediately.
Silas and I worked frantically trying to stop the bleeding. I was putting pressure on it but it wasn't stopping, I glanced up to Casimir's face and I could see that he was fading fast. Silas had a grave look on his face and I knew, we were losing Casimir.
"No!" I yelled and looked around in a panic. My eyes met Adam's and I thought about my roses. I had made them bloom all at once, maybe, just maybe that energy could save Casimir. But I didn't know if I could get enough white energy to do it on my own, but Adam's energy had helped pull me out of Ketheras' control so I thought, maybe, just maybe it would work. "Adam, come here!"
He ran over and knelt down beside me.
"Yeah," he said as I shook Casimir to wake him.
"I need your energy! Do what you did when Ketheras took over! Focus white energy into me from your hand! This time think how much you want to save Cas!"
I took his hand and almost immediately felt the rush of energy from him. When I was full to the brim and I felt as if I were about to explode, I opened my eyes to put my hand on the gash in Casimir's abdomen. I closed my eyes again, picturing Casimir lying on the ground in front of me. I visualized the gash beneath my hand and saw the white energy flowing into Casimir from my hand. In my mind, I saw a bright light beneath my hand and warmth spread up my arm. Suddenly, the bright light in my mind exploded and knocked both Adam and me back.
I could feel that I was still fully charged with white energy so I touched the ground, sending it down until my own energy dimmed. I couldn't see him but I felt Casimir's energy rejuvenated and strong again. My eyes shot open and I saw Casimir sitting up and his eyes were bright.
"Cas!" I exclaimed and threw my arms around him so hard that he fell back with me on top of him. "You're okay!" I cried into his neck. His arms tightened around me, holding me as I cried tears of joy that he was still alive. We stayed there for a few minutes before I let him up.
He looked at me as we both straightened up and he saw the tears on my face. "Oh, Cas, I don't think I have ever realized just how much you mean to me. But by the Gods, Cas, I love you," I said and kissed his lips.
Casimir smiled and said, "I love you, too, but what happened?"
"You were dying, man. You damn near died," Lothair blurted out.
"What? How? I'm a Krznik!"
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"Yes, you are, and I don't know how," I looked down at the athame on the ground and picked it up. "Do you recognize this?"
"Vaguely, should I?" Casimir asked.
"Yes, you should, it's Grezelda's. It's the athame that Rurik used to kill me thirty years ago and it nearly killed you," I remarked. I couldn't explain it. I didn't understand. The athame was spelled to kill Ketheras and in turn, Kethras, but yet, it nearly killed a Krznik. A being that can't be killed by anything.
As I held the athame in my hands; hilt on one hand, blade on the other; I realized something else. I remembered that when I had been Dru, hanging on the wall, Rurik had touched the blade to my neck. It had burned like the flames of hell on my skin. But now, as I held it, there was no burning, no stinging, just cold steel.
I couldn't make sense of it. Every option I thought of made no sense. Hell, nothing made sense anymore, but I knew where we might find answers. We needed to go home. We needed to go to Cion.
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